Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Falling short or drawing the line . . .

Today, the Joint Select Committee sent their required response to the Supreme Court's directive for a detailed plan on how the legislature will fully fund their definition of basic education by 2018.  As expected it fell short of a detailed plan since none emerged in the recent short session.  I'll share the first two responses I saw that capture the deep divide on this issue and the state of Education in our state.

The first is from Liv Finne in a post at the Washington Policy Center.  In it, she echoes what we have heard from many legislators.

In the report lawmakers tell the Court that it is the Legislature’s duty to define the program of basic education and to fund it:

“With the bounds of the constitution, the Legislature retains authority for selecting the means for Article IX implementation. And within the bounds of the constitution, the Legislature may change these means.”

The Select Committee also noted:
“...this case has not surprisingly sparked significant debate over the separation of powers and the role of the judiciary in budgeting policy.”

She makes her objections to the court's position clear and believes that the McCleary decision has little chance of improving public education in our state.

With each passing year it seems increasingly clear the McCleary process is not working. The McCleary lawsuit started in 2007. Five years later, on January 5th, 2012, the state Supreme Court issued its decision. Now, two years further on, the justices continue to wrestle with the long and tortuous process they created when they announced they would “retain jurisdiction” over the case and ordered lawmakers to submit regular reports.

The second response is from Superintendent Dorn in an OSPI release.  In it he takes the opposite view of Liv Finne and challenges the legislators to provide and fund the plan to meet their definition and timeline for basic education implementation.

The 58-page document released today says very little, and is far from complete. It isn’t even a plan. It reads like a small history lesson. It includes a list of bills that “are meaningful because they show significant work is occurring.”

The problem is that “none of these bills passed the Legislature.”

The document concludes with the plea that the Court “recognize that 2015 is the next and most critical year for the Legislature to reach the grand agreement needed to meet the state's Article IX duty by the statutorily scheduled full implementation date of 2018.”

In other words, Wait until tomorrow.

But I have to ask: Will tomorrow ever come?

The Legislature isn’t going to take its responsibility seriously unless the Court forces it to do so.

I believe that these responses demonstrate the deep divide that describes our current reality and that results in the lack of collaboration and capacity to reach agreement on how to close the gap.  One views the response as falling far short while the other sees it as appropriate and necessary to draw the line on court intervention into the policy arena.  If you are inclined, you can read the report here.  If not, you can wait like me to see how the court will respond.

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